Arthur Goldhammer

Arthur Goldhammer is a writer, translator, and Affiliate of the Center for European Studies at Harvard. He blogs at French Politics. Follow him on Twitter: @artgoldhammer.

Recent Articles

Unhappy Political Families: Why Europe's Mainstream Parties are Faltering

Populist insurgencies threaten establishment politics in France, Spain, and even Germany. 

Rex Features via AP Images
“All happy families are alike. Each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Tolstoy didn’t have European political parties in mind when he wrote those famous opening sentences of Anna Karenina , but his words remain remarkably apt as a description of the Old World’s increasingly dysfunctional political families. Recent elections in France, Spain, and the U.K. have weakened some traditional parties of government, encouraged insurgencies, and even threatened to blow up venerable party systems. Not even Germany has escaped Europe’s latest seismic tremors entirely unscathed. Start with France. As I wrote here two weeks ago, the big news is the rapid rise of the extreme right-wing Front National. Under the leadership of Marine Le Pen, who took over the party from her father in 2011, the FN has improved its performance with each new election. In this November’s regional contest, Mme Le Pen finally made good on her boast that hers is now “the...

Ouf! France Dodges a Political Bullet

France's far right was dealt a major blow on Sunday but it remains a powerful political force. 

Bakounine/Sipa via AP Images
Bakounine/Sipa via AP Images French far-right party Front National president and top candidate for the regional elections in Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie region Marine Le Pen delivers her statement after the announcement of her defeat against right-wing party Les Republicains (LR) candidate Xavier Bertrand in the elections' second round, in Henin-Beaumont, northern France on December 13, 2015. Ouf! is the French way of representing a sigh of relief on the printed page. Shortly after the polls closed at the end of the second round of regional elections on Sunday night at 8 pm, the French emitted a loud collective Ouf! The extreme right-wing Front National (FN), led by Marine Le Pen, which had topped the polls in six of 13 regions after the first round of voting, failed to capture a single region in the second and decisive round. When the dust had settled, the center-right Les Républicains (LR), led by former president Nicolas Sarkozy had captured seven regions, while the center-...

Paris, Friday the Thirteenth

Terrorists' new target: places where regular people go for joie de vivre to eat, drink and unwind. 

Photo: AP/Sipa/Laurence Geai
As Auden reminds us in his poem “Musée des Beaux Arts,” suffering takes place “while someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along.” As it happens, I was on a bus from Boston to New York when terror erupted in Paris this Friday the Thirteenth. The reports I received on my phone were still sketchy, mentioning only une fusillade . Perhaps it won’t be so bad, I thought. I went to my hotel and changed for the evening’s event, a conversation with the French historian and political theorist Pierre Rosanvallon, which was to take place at the bookstore Albertine in a Fifth Avenue building owned by the French government. On the way uptown I took a phone call from a friend in Paris, who was calling to assure me that she and her family were all right. Only then did I begin to realize the magnitude of the attack. When I reached the consulate, I found TV trucks and police and klieg lights waiting at the door. In the next block, in...

The French Disconnection

Can the ideal of a secular Republic accommodate the new cultural pluralism?

Christian Liewig/Sipa USA (Sipa via AP Images)
This book review appears in the Summer 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . A Divided Republic: Nation, State, and Citizenship in Contemporary France By Emile Chabal 314 pp. Cambridge University Press $99.99 French politics can be bewildering to outsiders. The state seems all-powerful. The government consumes a larger share of national income than in most other countries, and many large corporations are partly state-owned. Yet as powerful as the French state is, it is periodically brought to its knees by popular protest: In 1995, demonstrators successfully resisted pension reform, and in 2006, young marchers thwarted a minor innovation in the labor code, while voters refused to approve a revision of the European constitutional treaty backed by both major parties. The power of the legislature to check the will of the executive is much weaker in France than in the United States, yet the last three French presidencies—one on the left, two on the right...

Endgame in Europe

In a deal struck this week, Greece offered its creditors unconditional surrender. Will that be enough?

AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert
The deal struck in the wee hours of July 13—Bastille Day Eve—between Greece and its Eurozone creditors has been described in some quarters as a compromise. It was not. It was nothing less than a humiliation of a small and suffering member state, a sadistic display of naked financial power. Do as we say or we will “collapse your banks,” Eurogroup Chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem had apparently told Greek negotiators earlier. In the climactic weekend it emerged that he wasn’t bluffing. Despite the fact that the ‘No’ vote had scored a resounding victory in a national referendum a week earlier, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras decided he had no choice but to surrender to all the creditors’ demands, but in the end it turned out that even unconditional surrender was not enough. Germany’s implacable finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, saw weakness in his opponent and went for the jugular. He insisted on “ guarantees ”...